This compilation captures the subtle shift in Jamaican music from ska to rock steady around the mid-'60s, a distinction that is not always easy to make. Early ska is a musical grab bag of diverse elements. Rooted in mento, a folk sound that could be described as Jamaican Calypso, ska also incorporated R&B structures, Latin American horn choruses, and elements from the burgeoning Rasta drumming movement led by Count Ossie and his band. It even reprised the musical strains of African revivalist cults such as Pocomania. Rock steady, which would soon evolve into reggae, is said to have emerged when the dry, hot summer of '66 necessitated a slowdown by dancers and musicians into steadier tempos and simpler arrangements, and the new sound and dance were both aptly termed rock steady. This ska-to-rock steady period was also the heyday of the legendary ska big band the Skatalites, many of whose members had been students at the Alpha Boys School in Kingston and had played in various marching bands. The Skatalites' instrumental virtuosity, jazz influences, and military-tight arrangements are represented here most compellingly in "Dick Tracy" and "Man in the Streets," featuring the emblematic and melancholy slide trombone of Don Drummond, whose tragic death in an insane asylum after he murdered his beautiful dancer girlfriend adds a bit of frisson to the Skatalites-Drummond legend. But all the selections in this compilation possess that distinctive Skatalite quality of springboarding from deep-rooted folk tradition to the heights of jazz lyricism. --Elena Oumano
2008 two CD set featuring 35 of the Reggae great's early recordings. This collection contains the honest roots of the man that brought Reggae to the masses and, even in death, continues to be the master that every Raggae performer is ultimately compared to. Mastersong.